Elise Thomason: Rising to the Occasion

By Elise Thomason, SBS Class of 2024
College Entrance Essay

Elise Thomason Senior edited scaled

I have had the opportunity to be a part of multiple sports teams and have learned that it is through trials and failures that we learn discipline, perseverance, and how to overcome obstacles to accomplish goals. I have faced many challenges, setbacks, and failures in both the athletic and academic realms. Looking back, one experience had a profound impact on my life and my character and taught me the importance of rising to the occasion and the value of hard work, determination, and discipline.

During my sophomore season on the varsity volleyball team, I was unexpectedly placed in the challenging position of middle blocker. The middle blocker is a difficult position to master, but it would be especially hard for me considering my height of 5 foot 7 inches. When my coach asked me to play this position, I knew that it was rare for someone my height to be successful. Initially, I was hurt and confused by being put in this position because I assumed I would see little playing time on the court despite my efforts. I knew I had a choice to make: I could accept my assumptions and self-doubt, or I could utilize this as an opportunity to prove that I could succeed as a middle blocker, regardless of my height.

I chose the latter option. I decided to overcome my inhibition and utilize the doubt of others as fuel to drive my effort, attitude, and determination. I made a commitment to myself and the team. I practiced for hours and asked endless questions during practice to help me focus on my technique, timing, and agility. I watched countless videos of professional volleyball players to observe their techniques and identify key areas in which I could improve. I was determined to prove that I could take on this position and show that hard work and effort lead to exceptional results and achieved goals.

LSP 6544

The journey was not easy.  It consisted of tough practices, long workouts, and many moments of skepticism paired with the fear of failure. I questioned my decision to take on such a challenge but was also encouraged to stay disciplined and keep working towards my goal. I persevered through trials and errors and used each one as a stepping stone along the arduous road of improvement.

My hard work finally began to pay off. I saw improvements in my hitting accuracy, my ability to work with my team to earn a point, my capacity to read the opponent’s defense, and my overall performance on the court. My height no longer hindered me, rather, it became an advantage. I found ways to adjust my hits to surprise the opposing team and still be precise and consistent. This hard work and dedication earned me a place on the All-Conference team for two consecutive years and the All-State team my junior year. Not only did I experience a shift in my attitude and personal performance, but I began to notice a change in the dynamic of my team as a whole. Refusing to let physical limitations impede our performance enabled us to work harder than ever. We continued to grow as a team and ultimately won the 2021 and 2022 conference championships and the 2022 Virginia state championship.

VISAA VB SF 11 9 03

This experience taught me two valuable lessons about life: we have the ability to rise above expectations and never judge a book by its cover. Whether those expectations are set by ourselves or by others, we can surpass limitations and reach goals through hard work, determination, and discipline. I have applied these lessons to both the academic and physical aspects of my life. I have gained confidence and maintained a rigorous academic schedule while competing at a high level in demanding positions on the volleyball team and as the goalkeeper on the soccer team. Through this experience, I learned with discipline and grit, seemingly insurmountable goals can be achieved.

Overall, this journey has encouraged me to continue walking on a path that will lead me to succeed in all areas of life. It has revealed to me that in adversity, we are faced with the choice to either quit or persevere. I now understand supporting a team and true success is not centered around personal gain, but around encouraging one another to achieve personal goals to succeed as a unit. A team requires a collective effort, and this cannot be achieved without an encouraging atmosphere where everyone is able to learn from their mistakes and be inspired to grow.

As I prepare to embark on my college journey, I take with me the invaluable lessons I have learned from rising to the occasion. I am positive that I can face any challenge with determination, discipline, and a belief in myself that I can overcome. I know through my experience that it is not the obstacles that we encounter that define us, but it is how we choose to respond to them that shapes who we are. As Booker T. Washington writes in his novel Up From Slavery, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles by which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

Elise has been accepted to her first college of choice, Clemson University, among several others.